How to Optimize your HR Technology Stack

HR technology stack

The normal HR technology stack has always included common elements like a core Human Resource Management System and disparate solutions for recruiting, learning, and performance management. What’s often neglected but what proves to be most critical for powering effective collaboration, driving productivity, and engaging teams is Culture-as-a-Service or CaaS. And it’s quickly becoming the must-have HR technology.

This kind of HR technology, also known as culture management technology, is no longer reserved for enterprise organizations — those corporations managing hundreds or even thousands of employees with large budgets. We’re living in a new world spurred by digital transformation. As technology continues to evolve, work is no longer tethered to a specific desk, phone, or computer screen. New expectations have set in. Workers are requiring the freedom to share their skills and pursue new opportunities across the globe, all with nothing but the right device and a cloud connection.

What we have not paid enough attention to is the kind of cultures we need to be fostering in order to support such increased freedom and globalized teams.

The Mission for Today’s HR Technology Stack

As we have seen, small and mid-size businesses that had already adopted a modern HR tech stack were able to adapt more easily during the pandemic. Many could even keep running their businesses during lockdowns while employees worked from home. Moving forward, having an HR technology stack that includes Culture-as-a-Service will set you up to better address any future uncertainties.

To help, we talked to Humantelligence’s Customer Success & Culture Coach, Beth Hales, who has worked closely with hundreds of organizations to augment the HR technology stack with culture management and team collaboration solutions; Ben Eubanks, HR analyst and Chief Research Officer at Lighthouse Research & Advisory; and technology expert Marc LaCarrubba, Humantelligence’s Chief Technology Officer.

In your effort to redefine the workplace for your employees, you must innovate on how you deliver your services, and it all starts and ends with your core HR tech stack. Below, we’ll cover some of the key areas to consider when evolving your HR technology stack from average to industry-leading.

HR Technology Stacks 101: Human Resource Information System (HRIS)

Put simply, a Human Resource Information System or HRIS is the integration of HR activities and information technology. Your HRIS is where it all comes together and serves as the system of record for people at your organization. It enables data entry and tracking and management for human resources, payroll, and accounting. Most HR teams use an HRIS to help them improve their processes and stay organized.


Using an HRIS that fits your needs has some very clear benefits, including the following:


  • Record-keeping. An HRIS is a record-keeping system that keeps track of changes to anything related to employees. The HRIS can be seen as the one source of truth when it comes to personnel data. 
  • Compliance. Some data is collected and stored for compliance reasons. This includes material for identification and reporting purposes, first contact information in case of accidents, citizens identification information for the tax office, and expiration dates for mandatory certification. All this information can be stored in the HRIS.
  • Efficiency. Having all this information in one place not only benefits accuracy but also saves time.
  • HR strategy. The HRIS enables the tracking of data required to advance the HR and business strategy. Depending on the priorities of the organization, different data will be essential to track. This is where the HRIS comes in.
  • Self-Service HR. A final benefit is the ability to offer self-service HR to employees and managers. This enables employees to manage their own affairs. When done right, the HRIS can offer a good employee experience. 

Keep in mind that not all HRIS systems offer this in a user-friendly manner, but some key features of any HRIS system you’re assessing should include:

  • time and labor management activities
  • a payroll system
  • benefits administration 
  • performance appraisals and management
  • applicant tracking and succession planning tools

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant lists the 11 best-known Human Capital Management suites for midmarket and also large enterprises, including Workday, Oracle, SAP, ADP, Ceridian, Kronos (Ultimate Software), and more. In fact, Ultimate Software (now known as UKG) was ranked by Forbes as the 7th Most Innovative Growth Company. The company provides one system of record for HR, payroll, and talent management. Systems include time and attendance, onboarding, performance management, compensation, succession management, and more.

Pay & Benefits Administration

Paying your people and providing them with health and other benefits doesn’t have to be challenging and it shouldn’t be manual. HR SaaS tools for payroll and benefits that integrate with your HRIS aim to make administration easy for companies at any size. Some examples include:


  • PayScale: PayScale now offers an in-depth HR tool with the ability to track and analyze their compensation strategy with fresh salary data.
  • Gusto: Gusto offers payroll, benefits and HR tools for small to midsize companies. They have integrations with popular accounting software like FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online, as well as time tracking software.  
  • Zenefits: Zenefits has been providing payroll, benefits and more to small and mid-size organizations. 

For more guidance on how to select an HRIS, SHRM has put together this guide. As strategic partners, you work across the organization to optimize the entire employee lifecycle, so once you have your core HRIS (or HCM — human capital management) and benefits administration system selected, it’s time to consider the other critical component — culture management.

HR Technology - Culture Management
Culture-as-a-Service solutions help you measure your current culture and then align talent management, internal mobility, learning & development, and hiring plans to your objectives.

Culture-as-Service Solutions for the HR Technology Stack

Now more than ever, HR’s focus is on putting people first. Culture and employee engagement have become priority. Eubanks points out that data continue to show that tailoring experiences to the unique “fingerprint” of your workforce can lead to better engagement, retention, and other KPIs.


Engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to their organization and its goals. Engaged employees aren’t just working for a paycheck, instead they truly care about their organization’s mission and are willing to go above and beyond. A highly engaged workforce results in higher productivity, more satisfied employees, strong retention rates, and a better ability to attract talent — more important than ever in today’s red hot job market.


That’s where Culture-as-a-Service HR technology comes in and becomes a driver for value —  measuring your current culture so you can better manage it. Your  “culture tech stack” — a subset of the HR technology ecosystem — takes into consideration many components: recruiting, onboarding, engagement, learning & development, surveys and feedback, recognition, communication and collaborations tools, as well as culture management tools. 

Each has their own place in how an organization supports culture and its workforce. Let’s start with one of the first steps in the employee experience — recruitment and onboarding.


Recruiting & Onboarding HR Technology

An innovative recruiting and onboarding solution offers you the opportunity to automate most aspects of the process and engage everyone, including hiring managers, candidates, and recruiters. It also should integrate into your HR technology stack. HR SaaS tools can make it easier to source potential candidates and create a delightful onboarding experience. Some sample players here include:

  • Greenhouse: Greenhouse is an applicant tracking system and recruiting software for growing teams. They recently acquired Parklet, and now offer Greenhouse Onboarding to support new hires.
  • Lever: Offering Lever Hire as their standard collaborative recruiting platform, they also offer Lever Nurture to make proactive sourcing more timely and efficient.

For a more complete list of onboarding and recruiting systems, visit the Society of Human Resource Management. With any recruiting and onboarding platform, your goal should be to drive a structured recruiting process that is personal and data-driven.

“Personalizing your recruiting and onboarding process can really pay off in today’s talent market,” notes Hales. “Creating a structured experience, with personalized touch points, will help you win and keep talent. Look for tools that enable data-driven decisions and eliminate bias, so your hiring managers can understand the key predictors of performance and hire the right candidates to enhance their current team culture.”


What’s more, good applicant experiences have positive long-term effects for organizations regardless of whether the candidate was actually hired. Fifty-six percent of applicants who were happy with the way they were treated by an employer when applying for a job said they would consider seeking employment with the company again, and 37 percent said they would tell others to do the same. In recent survey findings of over 800 firms, Lighthouse Research & Advisory found that 90% of employers see the value they expected from AI, chatbots, and other recruiting automation tools.


These capabilities are becoming table stakes for the modern talent function. Use platforms that allow you to assess candidates against the job role needs, as well as against your team or organizational culture. Systems that do this provide an extra layer of predictive success reporting, reduce your time-to-hire rates, and lower your turnover rates. Taking the time to evaluate and leverage the value automation can offer is worth it.


Engagement & Learning HR Technology

Learning and development is one of the most effective strategies to boost engagement and minimize churn at your organization. In fact, there’s enough evidence now to show that companies that promote a culture of learning amongst employees perform better. 


According to this LinkedIn Learning course (quoting a McKinsey report), companies that offer comprehensive training programs have higher income per employee by as much as 200%. And for millennials, learning opportunities at a company are now the top metric in their likelihood to stay at a company. A PwC study found the same — that “the current workforce is more motivated by personal and professional growth than they are by earning more money.”


New digital tools have dramatically altered how we learn. Here are some of the key features of the modern corporate learning experience.

  • On-Demand Learning: The brick and mortar professional development course is dead! Instead of the rigid classroom model, learning can be a part of employees’ daily workflow – at their desks, on their mobile phones, or from wherever they work.
  • Consumerization of learning: Just as apps have changed the way we call taxis or watch movies, new digital learning tools also offer the same intuitive, engaging, and easy-to-use experience for people at work.
  • Agile learning: In an era of rapid technological change, learning has become critical for companies to stay up to speed. A modern learning platform accelerates content creation to ensure the most up-to-date training reaches your employees quickly.

To more deeply understand what drives the engagement of your people, aside from skill and competency-based learning opportunities, you also need to provide people with a centralized place to both give feedback to others and better understand themselves.


Choose engagement suites that incorporate self-assessments designed to empower people with a better understanding of their work behaviors, motivators, and work energizers. Not only will you drive employee engagement and growth, but you’ll have the data needed to make more informed hiring and people-related decisions for your organization.  

Employee Recognition Technology

A meaningful recognition program not only shows top employees that their work is valued, but also supports positive engagement and retention rates.


Studies show that remote workers tend to put in more hours than their in-office counterparts, but they often don’t feel part of the team when hybrid. One solution is to make employee recognition a priority for all team members no matter where they work. The most successful businesses know that the more gratitude in a company, the more productive and engaged teams and the better it performs.  An authentic and meaningful recognition program serves three greater purposes:


1. Showcase Goal Achievement

Why does it feel so good to get a simple “thank you” from someone? All humans feel the need to be praised at some level. They want to know that their hard work and achievements aren’t going unnoticed. When a person achieves a goal, personal or work-related, they feel a rush of achievement, and that good feeling is only amplified when others recognize and acknowledge the achievement.

2. Motivate Effort

Recognition can be tied to more than just performance. Celebrate strong effort when employees go above and beyond. This helps them develop emotional connections to the workplace that fuel future performance.

3. Reinforce Values

Achievements and actions that are recognized more frequently show employees what is valued by managers, leaders, and the organization as a whole. When we receive positive recognition for an action, we tend to associate that action with a reward and try to achieve that feeling again in future actions. So recognizing certain actions can reinforce the values an organization wants in its culture.


When you invest in a solution — that integrated into your HR technology stack — to support employee recognition, you’re able to achieve:


  • Recognition in real-time: Real-time recognition reinforces positive behaviors as they take place and create momentum. Frequent and authentic appreciation contributes to a recognition-fueled company culture, where employees feel confident celebrating each other’s success.
  • Personalization: Consider your employees’ individual needs and motivators, and a platform that offers a wide selection of meaningful reward opportunities.
  • Recognition ROI stats: Just one in ten organizations actively measure the impact of their total rewards program. Invest in a recognition platform that offers a complete feedback loop, and the opportunity to survey rewarded employees against your engagement KPIs.

Communication & Collaboration

The role of chief information officers has evolved considerably during the pandemic. As the technology experts of organizations, these executives have stepped up to enable the quick work-from-home pivots and expanded e-commerce sales channels. Just as the work-from-home/anywhere pivot took hold last year, this role of providing technology experiences has expanded, too.


According to a recently released survey of more than 500 CIOs conducted by Adobe and Fortune, 89% of CIOs said they see themselves as change agents who play a role in improving the culture of their organization, particularly as remote work and hybrid work becomes the new normal.

“Along with other business leaders, we have embraced our enhanced responsibilities and influence as an opportunity to further collaborate and succeed in today’s new digital-first reality. Given the proven correlation between happy employees, satisfied customers and overall business success — it’s more critical than ever that CIOs prioritize any systems or business processes that improve collaboration, productivity and overall employee experience,” said Abobe’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Cynthia Stoddard.


With remote work, employees’ entire work experience may be consumed via technology — their computer and mobile technologies, along with project management, communication, and collaboration applications.


And as teams are becoming more and more distributed, and over-communication is the only acceptable level of communication — collaboration applications have become the most mission-critical apps to an organization’s success. Organizations will continue to transition into more permanently remote-first, hybrid, and distributed workforce models, so it will be imperative for business to leverage tools that optimize collaboration on the spot to ensure teams remain engaged.


One of the most effective ways to do this  is to infuse actionable emotional intelligence data into the existing daily workflow of all teams, at just the right moments — within chats, team channels, and meetings. With a simple plug-in added to your tech stack, your team can have the kind of information needed to better communicate and collaborate.

Marc LaCarrubba, CTO for Humantelligence and former people advisory services technology director at EY, recognizes that empowering people with the right tools power more effective teaming. 

“We know it’s important for people leaders and those charged with implementing a tech stack that better supports today’s workforce models to empower people with the kind of tools that enable more effective collaboration. With a tool like EQ Everywhere, teams — whether working one-on-one or within and across departments or divisions — can have a deeper understanding of one another, and as a result, work together more effectively than ever before.”


As a result, employees can collaborate more meaningfully and remain more engaged from wherever they work. Consider investing in an emotional intelligence-based collaboration tool that integrates into your tech stack to keep teams connected.


Culture & Talent Management

What ties all of these CaaS components together…culture management! You can now take EQ-based communication deeper and leverage culture analytics and talent mapping to gain new insight into how your organization operates. Once you do that, you can optimize teams, drive change, and reset your culture.


Sounds impossible, right? Imagine being able to compare under- and high-performing teams within the organization to identify and address issues faster. Using a simple but insightful 12-minute psychometric assessment, you can then culture map core values to team’s measured motivators, behaviors and ideal work environments to gauge alignment and identify gaps. This allows you to build an action plan to achieve your desired culture, whether that be through hiring, learning & development, or both. 


Culture analytics allows you to:


  • Map current to target team or organizational cultures, pinpointing strengths and gaps to identify necessary shifts
  • Align talent development & workforce planning strategies to goals
  • Advance data-informed leadership and team composition changes as well as internal mobility decisions that foster greater innovation
  • Hire more intentionally for culture fit, performance, and diversity of thought 
  • Power effective teaming and meaningful collaboration to drive performance and profitability from wherever your teams work

What the Right HR Technology Stack Can Do for You

The majority of the workforce is more tech-enabled than ever, and workers’ expectations for consumer-grade experiences are growing rapidly. Integrating Culture-as-a-Service is now becoming a must-have for organizational success.


LaCarrubba reminds us, “In today’s global workplace, to transform along with the workforce, your organization must focus on an integrated digital service experience that connects with the broader set of an organization’s people services, while incorporating deep analytics as well as intelligent automation capabilities.”

The digital service experience is the foundation for a successful digital HR transformation — and the result will be a more strategic HR function that propels the business agenda through the lens of an organization’s people agenda.

Cutting-edge tools are rapidly evolving Human Resources roles and responsibilities—and reshaping how HR is done from people analytics to recognition, recruitment, and culture building. So to be able to achieve any of these goals, you must think about your ‘culture stack’ just as often as you think about your organization’s broader tech stack. To learn more about how to optimize your HR technology stack, download the eBook: What to Consider when Building your HR Tech Stack.

To move beyond average HR technology stack to one that includes Culture-as-a-Service, contact us here.

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